Gransfors Bruks, Sweden

August 18, 2013

Ursula Strauss

Gransfors Bruks is an ancient axe factory set in the woods of northern Sweden. Evan loved Axes. When I first met him he was both nervous and proud to show me that he had an Eswing hatchet attached to his belt in that very moment. I was impressed and not weirded out at all. I was totally understanding of his excuse to carry a concealed axe at all times, to be ready for whatever. He was always ready for whatever. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was ready for whatever too. Throughout my 8 years of knowing Evan, his love for axes only grew stronger. On a lazy Sunday morning in Brooklyn I would peek over his shoulder to see what he was scribbling and would most often find him in full focus mode, designing an axe that didn’t exist, modifying the age old design that’s been serving humans since the creation of tools. He always admired the tools made by Gransfors Bruks, he called them the "Cadillac of axes." My mother Heidi and Step dad Bill bought him one for his 25th birthday and he nearly fell to his knees when the box arrived at his door. After some online research on the Gransfors website, Evan learned that they teach week long intensive blacksmithing courses at their original factory. At the time of this discovery he had just started chemo, and as his caretaker, he knew we’d be glued to the hip until he fought off the cancer entirely. I remember him so joyfully asking me "Hey, maybe this August, you would want to come take this axe making class with me for a week in Sweden? It’s an intro level, you can do it!" Blacksmithing and axe wielding was never my thing but in those beginning stages of our new life with his cancer, I knew that never again could I pass up an interesting opportunity to learn and push myself, to travel, and meet other weirdos like me, like Evan. That class at Gransfors was a trip Evan wanted to take. He never forgot about it during his 2 years of being sick, he saw it as one of the first things he would do when he had enough strength and time and he knew I’d gladly do it with him. When he died, I knew I must go to Sweden, take that painful and exhausting blacksmithing class and bring Evan’s ashes with me to rest nearby the old factory. This was the first of all scatters. The first return back into the earth for Evan. There were only a few people taking the class so naturally we all became close and quickly learned about each other’s reasons for being there.  Through my stories everyone grew to love Evan and my mission to bring him with me to Sweden. One of the directors of the factory lent me a bicycle and drove me 20 minutes to the coast. I rode alone, through a beautifully paved road with the forest to my left and the Baltic Sea to my right. I knew the spot when I found it. I followed my heart out into the water and felt the sky open up as I let Evan fly out of the bottle I carried with me from NY. Nothing has ever felt more right and more wrong to me in my life. It made sense for him to be there but it didn’t make sense that it was in that form. Thankfully, things don’t need to make sense in this life, I can let Evan’s death be something that will never make sense and I won’t try to make sense of it. After this scatter, I hopped on my bike and headed back to class. About 45 minutes later I found myself walking with a broken pedal, pushing the bike alongside me and wandering up to a friendly looking picnic scene someone was having in the middle
of nowhere Sweden. They were kind enough to order me a very expensive taxi and I returned to Gransfors with a broken bike, and a bottle once full of Evan’s ashes now full of seawater and sand. I felt better. This journey that Evan requested we all take with his ashes had begun, and even though his death will always feel wrong, this odyssey he was sending us on with his ashes, was totally and 100% right.  

And it should be known, that class was so hard! My knuckles busted open, my palms bled from blisters, my nails were blackened from burning metal. In one of the first classes I cried privately with protective goggles on while working on my project. Everyone else was focused on their own stuff, the banging of hammers against raw steel, the heat from our personal fires allowed for no one else to know about my tear stained cheeks. But like all difficult things, it got easier and I made some truly beautiful metal tools that I will have forever. And if the world ends tomorrow and I survive, I’ll be ready for whatever!

  - Ursula Strauss 



Words for my Tombstone                                                                                                                                           poem by Evan Scofield


Alright, damnit

I admit it

you win

you’ve won

you’ve postulated perfect prose commands to

sway the decision into my demise

pull me under, my

campaign cut short, denounced and set to stay

shelf-top with all other trophies

reminders of your victories, true, but also those defeated

faces that you’ve recognized as

formulaic in their ready-set-lose


    Yes, no more euphemisms, I

    will not claim that you tipped the tables starboard

    your favor was flawless

    the champion is born and a ghost at his heels

    and you will find no trace of a sore loser

    in it’s wispy echoed shape


But lets be fair, I

will submit, quiet and eternal

to rattle my chains and

slink between thoughts


you, good victor, world

will admit outright

what a truth I speak:


        I lost, yes

        but oh, ho ho

        you never saw me coming.